By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
West Virginia University basketball coach Bob Huggins left his big center Aaric Murray at home because “he didn’t do what I wanted him to” on Saturday night when it ventured into Brooklyn to face John Beilein’s undefeated No. 3 Michigan team.
He might as well have left the rest of his big men home with him.
Especially Deniz Kilicli, who is definitely not among Huggins’ favorite people today … but he has a lot of company after an 81-66 loss to John Beilein’s undefeated No. 3 Michigan Wolverines.
“I’m embarrassed by our effort. It’s not me. It’s not what I stand for,” Huggins said. “We have a couple of guys who have had quite a few years to come around and haven’t come around.”
Those guys are big men, and Kilicli is the most prominent.
The front line of the Mountaineers managed to score only 9 points in the entire game … that being Kilicli, Kevin Noreen, Dominique Rutledge, Keaton Miles and newcomer Volodymyr Gerun.
It broke down to four points for Miles, two for Noreen, two Gerun and one for Rutledge.
A moment at the start of the second half summed up exactly what Huggins is talking about.
The Mountaineers got the ball down low to Kilicli. It’s where he lives, and this was the kind of play on which he makes his living.
He could have dunked the ball and he didn’t. He shot it.
It didn’t go in and he came out, never to again set foot on the floor.
“What good does it do to throw the ball one foot from the basket if the guy can’t score?” Huggins asked after the game, quite rhetorically.
“Here’s our problem. Let’s be honest. We have one senior who plays and doesn’t score and one who scored one point,” Huggins said.
That was Kilicli and Rutledge, who at least pulled down seven rebounds.
“Why depend on those guys?” Huggins continued. “Why depend on someone who is not dependable. If it changes, we will play them.”
But not now, not after what they did in the Duquesne game, after what they did in this Michigan game.
“We’ve got post guys shooting below 40 percent. That’s absurd,” Huggins said. “Guys are going to be productive and they have to compete like crazy. They do and we’ll win. We’ve won before.”
Those who keep such stats have pointed out that WVU outscored Michigan, 59-56, when Kilicli was on the bench, which must mean something.
He’s not alone. Even the big men are not alone.
Take guard Gary Browne.
“Gary Browne has to start listening. He can’t go out and put his hands on people and get in trouble early,” Huggins said of his guard.
But that’s just what keeps happening.
“He does it in practice and I yell at him, and he looks at me like he doesn’t know what I’m talking about,” Huggins said.
The shame of all this is that while Kilicli’s star is fading, freshman guard Terry Henderson’s is rising.
He had a career high 23 points in this one, hitting 7 of 14 shots on a team that doesn’t shoot 40 percent, not even in a game like this one when they start off making 12 of 18 shots for 66.7 percent.
They wound up hitting just 37.7 percent for the game, shooting 27 percent in the second half.
Things are certainly going to change. Huggins is serious when he says he is going to go smaller, play guys who can do the job and put forth an effort.
“It’s got to the point with me where I’ve had a whole lot better players than we’ve got and I’ve sat them. If I sat them I can sit these guys,” Huggins said.
Finals week is over and school is out. Huggins has time to work with this team, more time than he’s had, and he can do it with an easier schedule. In truth, this has been a difficult time for the Mountaineers as far as schedule goes … they have played just two games at the Coliseum to date, and they are a better team at home.
Still, the situation is bleak, the record 4-5, the worst start since 1989, and a full Big 12 season ahead of them. It’s going to take a lot of growing up among the young players and a lot of improvement from the veteran players to reach the NCAA Tournament.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.